Following good stories wherever they lead
An enchanted girl fights to reclaim both throne and family, torn by conflicting desires and loyalties, even as she begins to realize that no one can truly fight alone.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 mugs
If you’re in the mood for: Curses, prophecies, and powers in a fight for the realm, with plenty of banter between (enchantments aside) an impulsive girl and smart-alec guy.
Princess Aurora is both blessed, and cursed. She has fey-level strength, endurance, and bravery…and can destroy the free will of any man who loves her.
Ever since her mother, Sleeping Beauty, killed herself to pass on these fairy gifts, Aurora has known that love is inevitably linked with destruction. It’s a burden that leaves her wary of all commitments; she’s learned to get by on her own. Which has been more than a slight challenge, considering that Aurora and her brother, Jor, are being hunted by the ogre queen. They’re marked for a sacrifice that will usher in a new age of darkness…and Jor has just been taken.
Aurora must find allies, and quickly, if she wants to rescue her brother and defeat the queen — unfortunately, she has to deal with Prince Niklaas first. Handsome, charming, and entirely infuriating, Prince Niklaas is seeking a princess to marry, in order to escape a curse of his own. Due to an initial misunderstanding, Aurora finds herself posing as her own brother, hoping to win an army with the prince’s help — before she has to tell him the truth.
There’s a lot going on in this book — from briar-children prophecies to fey enchantments — and it’s a rough balancing act at times. Aurora herself is convincing as a competent fighter who has absolutely no idea how and when to ask others for help, and her conflict over deceiving Niklaas gets more interesting as their relationship develops. Niklaas himself is a worthy partner in banter, and saves himself from flatness by showing a surprisingly introspective side as the days move on.
One of the best features of the story is its shifting between viewpoints — from Aurora to Niklass and even to the Ogre Queen — which gives the story complexity and interest it would otherwise be lacking. The world is lightly sketched at best, with a particular vagueness surrounding the ogre prophecy and the general condition of the kingdoms. It feels more like a family squabble than a conflict spanning nations, which is why this is no Game of Thrones.
Another point where this story falters has to do with the central conflict. The free-will vs. love issue comes to a breaking point at an odd time in the overall arc, and the resolution has some forced tones. Mostly, I wasn’t convinced by certain characters’ reactions to the events. It didn’t destroy my enjoyment of the story, but it did take a lot of weight from the ending.
This is more fairy-tale-light than Grimm’s-reimagined, and should be taken as such for the most part. Overall, the writing is particularly deft and well-paced, and you can go flying along through the pages without much trouble. The dialogue is also worth the showing — much of Aurora and Niklaas’s relationship shines through their teasing, sniping, and tension-filled exchanges.
Aurora’s story is an odd amalgamation, but it has plenty of spark and heart; for a field trip to fairy land, it’s worth the outing.